My favourite holiday spot is a valley a few hours drive out of Cape Town. In summer it's dry, hot and dusty. There is no cell phone reception. The cottage we rent is not electrified. There are hills and dales to explore on foot, a slow brown river to swim down and a tree to read under. Don't get me wrong, I love a city holiday or a stay in a five-star luxury lodge, but nothing feeds my soul more than long days of doing very little, and evenings cooking under the clear starlit Karoo sky. There is good reason for this too. There have been scientific studies to show that spending time in nature boosts your working memory, de-stresses you and increases your ability to focus. There are the added physical benefits of all the walking and swimming, and best of all no cell phones to distract and disrupt your precious holiday time.
Now imagine how much better for my soul it would be, if I knew that my holiday destination (and me) was following responsible tourism principles. I could put my feet up knowing I'm lightening my footprint - literally. There are a number of great local destinations and tour companies with the intention of empowering their local communities and lessening their impact on the environment. For suggestions I'd look at these resources:
You'll find budget self-catering options and luxury hotels following sustainable principles on this platform. I found the wonderful Simonskloof Mountain Retreat near Montagu listed here. The accommodation on this farm is off the grid and solar power-equipped. If you're not resting your weary soul, you can trek, hike, mountain bike or go kloofing in the beautiful mountains enveloping the valley. In Limpopo, there is Garanga Safari Camp near Hoedspruit. This exclusive camp, which implements green practices to 'enable an eco-safair for conscious travellers', is situated in the greater Makalali Conservancy. Of course, Bulungula Lodge on the Wild Coast is listed too. The Rough Guide described this as 'one of the World's ultimate ethical travel experiences'. You are immersed in the local community here and can learn to brew beer, stamp maize and make bricks. A bucket list destination if you haven't already been.
The African Safari Foundation
Another good resource, this not-for-profit organisation builds partnerships between communities, ecotourism operators and conservation agencies in some of Africa's poorest destinations. The team has worked in the North West Province to build two community-owned tourism lodges Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West Province, a Big Five area. See the website for their other projects well worth visiting.
Love to Stay
This is a wonderful site for all kinds of holidays, and especially the hard to find eco spas. Its mission is it to help you spend your money on places that make a positive impact on the environment and engage the community. They award green hearts to the listed establishments for 'their positive green acts'. You'll find beautiful spas (Rest and Digest Wellness Haven in KwaZulu Natal looks great), green glamping options and some treehouses. www.lovetostay.co.za
By the time this goes to print, I'll be sitting under a tree with my nose in a book, and my phone will be off. I'm sure I'll not be the only one this year making commitments to living a more conscious lifestyle. Travelling as lightly as possible will be on that list for 2018. Happy holidays, and an even happier and greener 2018.
Jackie May is the editor of Twyg, a new lifestyle destination for conscious consumers
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